This paper addresses an enduring puzzle in fathering research: Why are care and breadwinning largely configured as binary oppositions rather than as relational and intra-acting concepts and practices, as is often the case in research on mothering? Guided by Margaret Somers’ historical sociology of concept formation, I conduct a Foucauldian-inspired genealogy of the concept of “father involvement” as a cultural and historical object embedded in specific histories, conceptual networks, and social and conceptual narratives. With the aim of un-thinking and re-thinking conceptual possibilities that might expand knowledges about fathering, care, and breadwinning, I look to researchers in other sites who have drawn attention to the relationalities of care and earning. Specifically, I explore two conceptual pathways: First the concept of “material indirect care”, from fatherhood research pioneer Joseph Pleck, which envisages breadwinning as connected to care, and, in some contexts, as a form of care; and second, the concept of “provisioning” from the work of feminist economists, which highlights broad, interwoven patterns of care work and paid work. I argue that an approach to concepts that connect or entangle caring and breadwinning recognizes that people are care providers, care receivers, financial providers, and financial receivers in varied and multiple ways across time. This move is underpinned by, and can shift, our understandings of human subjectivity as relational and intra-dependent, with inevitable periods of dependency and vulnerability across the life course. Such a view also acknowledges the critical role of resources, services, and policies for supporting and sustaining the provisioning and caring activities of all parents, including fathers. Finally, I note the theoretical and political risks of this conceptual exercise, and the need for caution when making an argument about fathers’ breadwinning and caregiving entanglements.
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